In case you imagined that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission these days was all sweetness and reason with employers in enforcing anti-discrimination law, check out Baseball Crank’s analysis (Sept. 12) of a new Sixth Circuit case, EEOC v. Watkins Motor Lines (PDF). Watkins Motor Lines hired Stephen Grindle, who then weighed 340 pounds, as a driver/dock worker:
Approximately 65% of his time was spent performing dock work including loading, unloading, and arranging freight. The job description for this position notes that the job involves climbing, kneeling, bending, stooping, balancing, reaching, and repeated heavy lifting.
Grindle continued to gain weight, hitting a high of 450 pounds.
In November 1995, Grindle sustained an on-the-job injury. He was climbing a ladder at the loading dock and a rung broke. He started to fall and caught himself but, in doing so, he injured his knee. …
[In 1996 an industrial clinic doctor, Dr. Walter Lawrence,] found that Grindle had a limited range of motion and that he could duck and squat but he was short of breath after a few steps. Dr. Lawrence also noted that “[o]n physical examination, the most notable item is that the patient weighs 405 lbs.” Dr. Lawrence concluded that, even though Grindle met Department of Transportation standards for truck drivers, he could not safely perform the requirements of his job.
So the company let him go, he sued, and the Sixth Circuit has now upheld the dismissal of his suit on summary judgment, not on the grounds you might think (that the grounds for his dismissal were obviously rational) but rather on the grounds that morbid obesity, when not caused by a physiological disorder at least, is not an “impairment” under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Michael Fox at Jottings of an Employer’s Lawyer also comments (Sept. 12) as does lawprof Sam Bagenstos (Sept. 12).